So you're going to your first trackday.
Trackdays can be the best time you've had on two wheels: it's hard to beat the feeling of an open track, when you and the machine dance across the race line, and let's not forget the intoxicating atmosphere and comradery in the paddock.
However for first-timers and newbies this experience, while exhilarating, can seem incredibly intimidating from the moment you pay for the trackday.
Let's break it down. I'm here to tell you what to bring, what to expect, and how to interact with others in the paddock.
- Driver's License (for registration)
- Bike Key
- Motorcycle 🙂
- Spare Helmet (if you have one)
- Race Leathers
- Heavy Duty Hanger
- Track Boots
- Gauntlet Gloves
- Back Protector (Less expensive ones are available)
- Chest Protector (not required, but good to have)
- Combined Chest & Back Protector (replaces separate back and chest protectors)
- Sport Tires (DOT tires are fine, but touring and hard-compound tires may increase the risk for low-sides in turns. I personally recommend Michelin Power 5 or Dunlop Q3+)
In The Paddock
- Pop-Up Canopy
- Canopy weigh downs (Can be sandbags, old tires with ratchet straps, 5 gallon buckets of water, etc.)
- Folding chairs
- Folding Table(s) (2 is ideal!)
- LED Christmas lights for under tent
- 50-100ft extension cord
- Power strip
- Tire pressure gauge
- bike stands (front and rear if possible)
- 5-gallon gas can
- Bike cover (not necessary but nice to have)
- Cooling Towels
- Spare bath towel to keep in paddock
- Chain Lube
- Brake Cleaner
- Plexus (This is Invaluable)
- Helmet Pad/Liner Foam Cleaner (for inside)
- Indoor/Outdoor carpets (For your campsite and resting area - trust us on this one.)
- Lume deodorant (trust us, it works)
- Stick or spray deodorant
- Washrag and/or Loofa
- Face wash
- Baby wipes
- Flushable Wipes (please don't actually flush these)
- Hand sanitizer
- Shower shoes
- Gold Bond body powder
- Panty Liners, Pads, and/or Tampons
In Your Toolbox
- Duct Tape
- Masking Tape (to tape up headlights, etc.)
- Electrical Tape
- Zip Ties
- Rubber Mallet
- Phillips and Flathead screwdrivers
- JIS Screwdriver (if your bike is Japanese!)***
- T-Handle Hex Key Set
- Metric Drive Socket Set (1/4" and 3/8" if available)
- Shop rags
- Microfiber towel
*** The JIS screwdrivers are ridiculously overpriced for (stupid) screwdrivers, but if you have a Japanese motorcycle the buy is 1000% worth it. Ask me how I know... 5 stripped screws later...
Where do I Stay?
We began our trackday journey using a standard camping tent with an air-mattress. Most racetracks offer on-site camping for a low cost. Electricity, if available, is an additional charge and varies by track location.
Not a camping person? Local hotels are an option; unload your motorcycle and paddock and leave them overnight - racetracks are generally a very safe place. Be sure to arrive in the morning in time for tech and don't be late for the rider's meeting!
We currently have a 7x14" enclosed trailer equipped with a ceiling-mounted A/C, lights and outlets. This isn't feasible for most beginner trackday-goers, so I'm going to explain the ideal on-site camping setup:
Picking A Tent: The more space the better. Having a screened-in room in the tent is a super valuable addition if you can afford an upgraded option, especially if your four-legged kiddos are with you!
Sleep on Air. Air mattresses are a life (and back) saver after long days on the track! Opt for a deluxe comfort air mattress with an internal pump, these are worth every penny.
Don't forget the rain fly. Weather is unpredictable, and morning dew in the south gets everywhere! Install that rain fly even if the skies are clear.
Pick up an extra 10x10 canopy. You can find a cheap 10x10 canopy at Academy for $50, pop it up at the entrance of your tent for extra shade and resting area. Keep that first pop-up canopy to park your motorcycle(s) in between track sessions. Don't forget to weigh down those canopies!
What do I Eat?
It's not uncommon for trackday hosts to welcome a food truck during the designated lunch hour; however don't count on this. More than likely it will be fried food or barbeque lacking healthy options to fuel your body.
A Coleman portable propane camping stove is an awesome addition to your paddock if you're a home chef or wanting hot, healthy trackside meals.
If you don't mind cold options, prep sandwiches and prepare a snack bin with healthy snacks like nuts, fruits (bananas and oranges are my fav track snacks), and chips. Keep pre-made Walmart salads in your cooler for a healthy lunch.
There's also no shame in leaving the track for lunch and dinner.
Heat exhaustion and dehydration is a serious risk during a trackday, but during the summer months the sun and heat brings additional risk to the paddock. Start drinking extra water days before your trackday: AT LEAST 5 bottles/60oz of water.
The morning of your trackday: wake up, have your coffee, drink a bottle of water. Chug it if you have to. You should drink at least one bottle of water in between each session, an extra bottle during lunch, and at least one after the track shuts down. I can’t stress this enough: Drink your fucking water.
- Ice, Ice, Ice!
- Water (more than you think you'll need)
- Seedless mandarin oranges
- Mountain Trail Mix
- Beef Jerky
- Pre-made sandwiches
- Pre-made salads
- Paper Towels
General Trackday Schedule
Novice Trackdays vary depending on the trackday organization you decide to ride with. In this section I'll be referring from many personal experiences with Sportbike Track Time. The following schedule is for general purpose only, you should receive a concrete schedule from your trackday organization at least 24 hours before your scheduled trackday.
7:00 - 8:00 AM: Registration and Motorcycle Tech
- Bring your license to registration; you will be given a sticker with the group you're signed up in (Novice).
- Take your motorcycle to the tech area for inspection. Instructors are there to answer any questions and inspect your motorcycle for safety concerns. Check with your trackday organization for their beginner tech requirements.
8:20 AM: Rider's Meeting
- MANDATORY Meeting with the trackday organization manager to go over track rules, flags, and trackside accommodations.
- Novice riders immediately meet with the Lead Instructor to go over safety information, track rules, paddock etiquette, and more. NOVICE MEETINGS ARE MANDATORY FOR ALL FIRST-TIME TRACK RIDERS.
Trackday participants are split up into 3 groups: Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced. Each group goes on-track hourly for 20 minute sessions.
The track will go cold (no riders) for one hour for lunch.
How to Interact with Others
This may seem like a silly question for some, but I haven't always been so willing to talk to strangers. On my first trackday I was afraid to ask questions in fear that I'd be made fun of, or it'd be made obvious that I'm new. I wish I had someone to tell me this back then:
- Everyone starts from somewhere.
- That advanced rider was in your place at one time.
- The only dumb question is the question you don't ask.
- If something breaks on your bike ask around for parts! More than likely someone has the part you need, you just need to ask!
The track fam is extremely diverse with riders from all ages and backgrounds. While there is always that bad apple, 99% of your fellow track riders are extremely nice and are happy to lend a helping hand. Like I stated before: everyone starts from somewhere and they've been where you are.
As for the trackday coaches: They're there to help you. Utilize them. Ask them questions. Have them follow you. Follow them. They're a coach because they love motorcycles and want to help others. Take their advice and learn from them. This resource is truly invaluable.
What NOT to talk about: Money. We all know this sport is expensive; money is generally a no-no in paddock conversation.
I truly believe attending a trackday is one of the best things you can do as a motorcyclist in order to advance your skills on two wheels. It gives you a place to practice with minimal distractions and limited risk: no traffic and no road debris.
I'm honored to sponsor women as first-time Novice riders throughout the year in hopes to introduce more women to track riding and encouraging them to advance their skills.
Have I missed anything? Do you have any specific questions? Leave me a comment down below and I'm more than happy to answer your question(s) or add items to these checklists!
Ride Safe, and see you on The Track.